SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. – Federal agencies say they are keeping a close eye on the situation in Alabama after an oil pipeline leaked thousands of gallons in a rural part of the state.
A section of the major Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Houston to New York, was shut down after it spilled roughly 250,000 gallons in Shelby County.
According to AL, an inspector with the Alabama Surface Mining Commission was performing a routine check of an old coal mine in the area when he started smelling gasoline and saw an oily residue on the surface of a nearby retention pond.
Colonial Pipeline Company says ‘Line 1,’ which is responsible for shipping 1.3 million barrels of gasoline each day to the East Coast, was leaking underground.
AL reports that crews started shutting down the line within 20 minutes of learning of the potential leak.
The company said that it has been in contact with the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, whose concern is for residents, the environments and crews near the leak.
Newsy reports that the contaminated area is contained upstream from a national wildlife refuge and downstream from a major drinking water intake.
AL says that the leak is located in the William R. Ireland Sr. Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area, which is about 30 miles south of Birmingham.
Riverkeepers tell the site that since a lot of the streams are dry, the contamination is not being spread to nearby rivers, like the Cahaba River. Instead, the damage is contained to a retention pond.
“The Cahaba River is home to 135 known species of fish, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as well as 35 snail species, 10 of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Ten species of fish and freshwater mussel in the Cahaba are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act,” AL reports.
Since the line was shut down earlier this month, shipments of gasoline to the East Coast have declined. The pipeline is responsible for about 40 percent of gasoline on the coast.
According to WNCN, the company announced that crews need to build a bypass line in order to get oil flowing through the line again.
Colonial Pipeline Company said crews began excavating ‘Line 1’ to repair the damaged section of the pipe.
According to a news release, the company said that they are looking into the “construction of a temporary segment of pipeline around the leak site to allow Line 1 to return to service as rapidly and safely as possible.”
So far, there is no timetable for when that bypass line would be completed.
“Under normal circumstances, the Colonial Pipeline system transports approximately 2.6 million barrels of refined products each day with Line 1 accounting for half of this volume. Colonial is currently shipping as much gasoline as possible on Line 2…to help mitigate the impact of the service interruption to Line 1. These changes have allowed all origins and delivery markets to be served along the entire system, albeit in a more reduced capacity,” the company said in a statement.
Crews must also test and analyze the failed section of pipe, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.
The company doesn’t know when the spill started, according to the Associated Press.
Already, several gas stations in a handful of states have run out of gas, sending drivers scrambling to find fuel in other towns.